We tend to regard suffering as a negative. However, from God's perspective, it's a necessary positive, as Peter has written:
· “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2 ESV)
Suffering, in God's hand, turns us away from sin and to God. This doesn't mean that we will be liberated from sin but from a sinful lifestyle. Instead, we will be seeking to please our Savior.
Suffering also prepares us for the return of our Savior:
· “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Suffering prevents us from becoming too comfortable here. It refocuses our sight onto the things above, causing us to long for the return of Christ!
How unwelcoming we'd be to our Savior if we told Him on His return: "Great to see you, Jesus. But could you postpone your return for a couple months. You see, we got a cruise coming up and I'm due for a promotion."
Suffering also readies us in another way:
· “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
Suffering also humbles us by exposing what we have buried - our self-centeredness. According to Peter, membership in the body of Christ requires us to be humbled so that God will exalt us:
· “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5-7)
Humility will not come about without suffering. We would rather exalt ourselves. Therefore, we need to first be convinced that God's ways are better than our own. Suffering reveals the poverty of our own agenda, forcing us to embrace His.
Until this happened for me, I failed to see much of God's grace in my life. However, the more He has humbled me, the more I have seen of His goodness.
We need to understand these things. Without this understanding, we will think that God has failed or rejected us, the very thing that Satan wants us to believe:
· “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, KNOWING that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)
We need to know and understand that suffering is necessary medicine, which we all are called upon to ingest. If we don't, we will despair when suffering comes knocking. Besides, if we don't understand this, we will be fair game for Satan.
We also need to understand that suffering is not only a gift, but it is also temporary:
· “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
1. Even after you are armed with this understanding, suffering will still remain painful. That's what it's supposed to be (Heb. 12:5-11).
2. We should still look for a way of escape from the suffering. This might be God's way of rescuing you:
· “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
He is our Deliverer!